Intel has finally confirmed the existence of Yamhill. To quote:
Intel spokesman Robert Manetta says the Santa Clara, Calif.-based chipmaker has a working prototype of a 64-bit x86 design that it could bring to market “when customers request it.”
This is Intelese for “we’re going to end up doing this.”
Why Did Intel Change Its Mind?
There’s several probable reasons that made Intel change its mind:
The Ramp Is Broken
As we said last week, Intel is having a real problem with its circuitry which seems to be seriously affecting its ability to ramp up frequencies like they’ve been accustomed to doing.
It’s not clear what the exact nature of the problem is (the complete answer is probably rather complex), but here, the what is more important than the why.
x86-64 gives you on average roughly 20% more performance. That’s a very erratic 20%, by the way, a few apps could show a 50%+ improvement, but many if not most typical apps will hardly show any improvement (as we explained a while back.
For the average computer user, it’s not a must-have, and for that average user, they’re much better off with a 32-bit running a lot faster than with x86-64.
However, if you can’t ramp frequency as easily or by as much as you could previously, it’s not so easy to turn your nose up at the benefits of x86-64. You can laugh at a 2.8 or 3 GHz x86-64 when you can easily make a 5-6GHz PIV. You can’t when you’re struggling to make a 4GHz PIV, because that’s going to lose against the x86-64.
It is this reason that turned the hard heads at Intel, simply because it legitimizes the BS PR reasons for x86-64.
Never Underestimate The Intelligence of the Average Computer Buyer
Over the course of time, I’ve gotten more than a few emails essentially saying, “the masses will buy x86-64 because 64 is more than 32.”
Well, they’re usually not quite that dumb. Or perhaps these folks have forgotten the counter-dumbness called the MHz Myth.
Yes, 64 is more than 32, but 5GHz is more than 3GHz. Oh my, what’s a mentally challenged computer buyer to do?
What that mentally challenged computer buyer will do is probably look at the media, and the media will look at who wins the benchmarking contests to see which dumbness wins out.
If Intel wins the contests (i.e., can ramp up normally), then the media will say that MHz is what matters, and 64 is BS. If Intel can’t ramp, and loses to Hammers, the generally-ignorant media will say that proves 64 is better than 32, and forget the MHz stuff.
So you see, 64-bitness all by itself isn’t a winner, but 64-bitness and winning races gives it traction.
Neither of the media’s conclusion would be true, but it will become the “truth” in the minds of millions. Intel most definitely doesn’t want that to happen. The MHz Myth has served it long and well.